A unique data set, recording a representative sample of the acquisitions of public and academic libraries in the UK between 1980 and 1998, has been analysed for evidence of trends in acquisitions. Examination of acquisition date relative to publication date revealed public libraries buying little older material, and academic libraries increasing purchases of older titles. Paperback purchase by public libraries has risen, but remained more stable in academic libraries. Public library purchasing reflects current public interest in practical and hobby subjects, but in other areas levels of purchase are at variance with statistics of use. Academic library purchase is dominated by social science material, disproportionate to student numbers. Purchase price analysis suggests a trend to reliance on interlending to satisfy demand for more expensive titles. The findings raise questions about current acquisitions practice and the influence of publishers and suppliers; some further areas for work are identified.
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